The Church beyond England

This is the second installment in a series of synopses of the meaning behind stained glass windows at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Enid, Oklahoma.

While these windows are closely associated with and loved by the parish of St. Matthew’s, their symbolism reaches far beyond any parish – or in this case, any diocese or province.

These two panels highlight the early spread of Christianity in England in the 6th century, through to the split from Rome which created the Church of England. While this all sounds very ‘English’ the history behind these two beautiful panels spreads much further than the Church of England and the Episcopal Church.

From the Church of England was born the Methodist Church, from which we received the Salvation Army, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and others. From the Church of England was formed the Episcopal Church and 43 other provincial or national churches that today serve roughly 85 million Christians.

St Augustine of Canterbury

St. Augustine of Canterbury

Given to the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of Michael Todd Hemphill (1968-1975)

From the Hemphill and Mullikin Families

 

This window panel depicts St. Augustine of Canterbury and the roots of the Anglican Church with its reintroduction to southern England and Wales in the sixth century.

The story in this window begins in the lower right, with a blond-haired boy bearing an angelic halo. This part of the window depicts a story of Pope Gregory I, who in 586 saw a group of Anglo slave boys in a Roman market. Gregory devoted papal funds to purchase those and other “Angelic Angles” to be educated in Christianity and repatriated to Britain. The boy is holding a gold disk with 10 points, symbolic of both the Decalogue and the money used to buy the boys’ freedom.

St. Augustine appears above the boy and a body of water, dressed in vestments with miter and crosier. Taken together, this symbolizes St. Augustine being sent by Pope Gregory I in 596 to reestablish the Church in England, and his eventual rise to the archbishopric after the conversion of Kent.

The background is colored blue, a color traditionally associated with heavenly love and the unveiling of truth, and the word “Veritas,” meaning truth, appears above St. Augustine. In his left hand he holds the Gospel, open to Romans XIII, in which Paul summarizes: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”

At the bottom left of the window appear a scourge, or whip, along with a quill and scroll. The scourge represents penitence, while the quill and scroll represent the arts of writing and learning. By placing these at the saint’s feet the artist brings attention to these virtues in St. Augustine, and in the early church he founded in England.

Thomas Cranmer

 

Thomas Cranmer, Martyr of the English Reformation

Given to the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of Claire Marie Oven (1926-1944)

By Helen Champlin Oven

 

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, was a central figure in the English Reformation, laid the foundations of the Anglican Church as a separate body from the Roman Catholic Church, and compiled the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549.

Cranmer fell out of favor with the English throne with the rise of Roman Catholic Queen Mary Tudor in 1553. The archbishop was imprisoned and tried for heresy, and eventually was executed by being burned at the stake on March 21, 1556.

This panel depicts Cranmer engulfed in flames, signifying both the manner of his martyrdom and the power of the Holy Spirit in sustaining him. He holds in his hand the Book of Common Prayer, the unifying document of the English Reformation and the Anglican Communion to today. At Cranmer’s feet we see the chalice and bread of Holy Communion, signifying the roots of the Anglican Communion in not only the Catholic Church but also the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

The shield of the province of Canterbury is in the lower left of the window, and a Bishop’s miter in the lower right corner, together representing the historic role of the Episcopate and its continuity in the Church of England.

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